Friday, December 30, 2011

Pot Roast!!

I made my first pot roast for Christmas dinner. It was a hunk-a hunk-a chunky meat that turned out sooooo good. I thought that I would do a rub on it a couple of days beforehand, but time simply ran out. Instead, I found a bunch of stuff in the fridge, threw it on top of the meat and cooked it 'til it was done.

Yep. It was that simple; and the damned thing is going to feed us for a loooong tiiime.

Here's the recipe for the Pot Roast:
1 big chunk of beef. I talked to my butcher and found that a boneless chuck would be best for my needs. About 5lbs.
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Beef stock (enough to almost cover the meat when it's in the roasting pan/crock pot
1 yellow onion, quartered
1/2 fennel bulb, halfed
10 pepper corns
2 tsp fennel seed
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigre
1lb potatoes (I used fingerlings, but quartered New potatoes or Yukon golds would be great too.)


Cooking Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350º

Rub the meat generously with salt & freshly cracked pepper. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat just until the smoking point. Add the meat and sear it on all sides until it is nutty brown (four minutes or so each side). After seared, remove the meat from the pan and set to one side for a moment.

Then, poor the beef stock in the pan to deglaze it, scraping all of the tasty brown bits off of the bottom (that's where a lot of flavor lives.) Return the meat to the pan, then add the rest of the ingredients.

Bring the mixture up to a simmer on the stove top, cover, then cook it in the oven for three to four hours. Check it after 2 1/2 hours to see where it is in the cooking process as cooking times will vary depending on the size and cut of meat that you've chosen.

Serving Instructions:
Frankly, I was so distracted by my dinner company that I have forgotten what I served as sides. Let's say that I made the most incredible sauteed greens and I baked fresh bread with my two hands that day, and that I am actually that amazing. All I know it that when the pot roast was done I served up chunks of the tender, flavorful meat and the table got quiet; a sure sign that dinner is good.



With muffled, food-filled mouths and happy tummies, Lorelei and I wish you...

Happy new year and Santé

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bad Food Blogger! Bad!

It turns out that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is an incredibly busy month for me, as it is for anyone with kids, I guess. Needless to say I've been cooking up a storm; chocolate truffles (nearly 100 of the little suckers),





scratch birthday cakes for Lorelei and her friend Klaire,





and my first pot roast for Christmas dinner. I've been so occupied with getting everything done that I haven't really reached out for my camera or my laptop to document most of it. The flurry of blog activity in October with the Jamie Oliver nod and the subsequent promotion and chatter also took it's toll.

Frankly, mama needed a break.



Anyhoo, let's suffice to say that most of the food was awesome, some of it was major foible material, and the rest of it is leftovers that will become dinner this week. Maybe I'll do a series on what to do with leftovers so that the kids (and the rest of the family for that matter, including me) don't recognize the food that they've been eating for the entirety of December. I've got my eye on the pot roast and some good cheese in the fridge. I'm thinking killer sandwiches. Stay tuned for that.

________________


Given that I may not have a chance to post anything else until the New Year, I would like to send out a giant thank you to all of the people who have supported me in my efforts to do this blog. Thank you to all of my readers, and thank you to all of the people who have questioned what I do and who have challenged my perspective; it's been your feedback that has really meant so much to me. Because of it I now have a very solid understanding of what I want to do with this part of my life, and Lorelei and I will both benefit greatly from it.

Here's hoping that your holiday hangovers pass easily and that your New Year brings happiness, success, friendship, love, and of course... GOOD FOOD!


Be well. And really, thanks for reading.




Santé



Monday, December 19, 2011

Tuna Melt - And Some Fun News

I'll start with the fun news:

The Food-Minded Mama is now a .com!

If you have my blog bookmarked, the blogspot.com page will still work, but you can also use the following to get to my amazingly amazing stories, recipes, and pictures.


http://www.thefood-mindedmama.com

Fun right?

Ok, here's the Tuna Melt Recipe.

I came up with this last week and have tried it a couple of times. It's really good and is a hit with the three-year-old set.

Recipe:
(makes two open-faced sandwiches) 
 Preheat the oven to 375º

For the tuna mixture
1 can tuna (3oz., drained)
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp diced white onion
1 tbsp capers
1 heaping tbsp grated Parmesan
Pinch of salt
Ground pepper

Dump ingredients in a bowl. Mix.

For the cheese topping
2/3 cup grated cheese (cheddar, gruyere, Swiss, or whatever you want... oooh, maybe even Cambozola. Yum! I'm so doing that next!)
2 tbsp grated Parmesan

Toast your bread until lightly golden. Then spread a small amount of mayo, butter, or olive oil on it, especially the edges so they don't burn. Top with the tuna mixture. Top that with the cheese mixture. Bake in the oven (or you toaster oven) for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melty.


Mom's Tip
Yes this is a fork and knife sandwich. Yes you will need to help your littler kids cut it. This is a great time to spend with your kiddos and teach them about utensils. 
Santé

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What's in Lorelei's Lunch

Getting us out of the house in the morning is becoming more and more of a challenge. The mom n' kiddo tug of war has hit a fevered pitch a couple of times this week, but I've still been able to send some tasty, healthy lunches.

Here's a couple of lunches that Lorelei took to school this week: (Mind you, she's three. If she can do it, any kid can.)

By the way, if you think you're gunna see pictures of the lunches I threw in her sack while I was feeding the cat, drying my hair, and chasing the child around with shoes and socks, you're nuts!!

Disclaimer: Peanut butter and jelly is a staple for us, so is single serving yogurt (NOT Go-Crap sugar bomb 'yogurt'), single-serve apple sauce, string cheese... in other words, easy to grab and eat foods that are still healthy.

Now, onto the good stuff.


One day this week I sent:
In one container - smoked trout and crackers with cream cheese spread on them.
In another container - apple slices
In the last container - snap peas

Another day this week I sent:
In one container - 2 fresh-baked* meatballs, cut into bite sized pieces, sprinkled with Parmesan.
In another container - fresh-boiled** frozen peas
In the last container - grapes

*After I pull our breakfast toast out of the toaster oven, I turn it to the bake setting at 450º. Then, as we eat breakfast, the meatballs bake for 25 minutes or so until they're done. I cut them to let them cool, then pack 'em up.

**I reserve some of the boiled water in the kettle for boiling the peas. I just pour some of the water into a small sauce pan (maybe 1/2" deep), salt it, and boil up the peas until done; less than 3 minutes.


When it comes to stocking the kitchen with things to pack in Lorelei's lunch, here's what I tend to have on hand:

- Single serve apple sauce
- String cheese
- Frozen peas
- Yogurt
- Cottage cheese and canned pears
- Fruit
- Tuna
- Peanut butter and jelly
- ALWAYS whole grain bread

Good for leftovers -
- Fritata
- Meatballs
- Chicken and Rice
- Smoked trout or salmon


Mom's Tip
My advice; don't over think it. Lunch doesn't have to mean a sandwich. They don't always need meat. Broccoli can be finger food.

If you would like some tips based on what you normally have in your kitchen, contact me! I'll be happy to help you make making lunch easier.


Santé

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spilling my Pumpkin Guts


You may be saying to yourself, “Enough already with the pumpkins! Halloween was over a month ago. Get over the pumpkins!!”

Oh, you’re not? Well, I am.

I have had pumpkin on the brain since mid October and I am in need of a brain (and picture) dump. Consider this my...


Great Pumpkin Purge!!

I’ve hunted them

I’ve schlepped them

I’ve carved them

I’ve gutted them

I’ve toasted & roasted them

I’ve baked them in a cake
(bread, really, but you get where I’m going. Oh, you don’t? Well…)


About the hunting: 


I told you the story here. It was a very fun, albeit wet, adventure with grandma.


About the schlepping:


Even though I had three or four pumpkins at home, I was happy to accept the gift of some beautiful Cinderella pumpkins from the gardener who tends to my restaurant’s planters and outside decorations. He literally had the bed of his truck full of pumpkins: large ones, small ones, orange, gray, green and blue ones. I picked out three of the prettiest pumpkins and I thought to myself,

“Self. I can totally carry these to the car three city blocks away before I pick up Lorelei from daycare.”

Yeah. No.

I hoisted those suckers up in my borrowed bucket and huffed for almost a block before I enlisted a strapping young man (with blue eyes and brown hair, wearing a nice sweater… wait, pumpkins) to carry the other side of that bucket so that I could get those damned things to the car. He helped me get mostly there. I made it the rest of the way, huffing and puffing, on my own.


About the carving:

Pumpkin carving party!!!!!



We had five kids, ten pumpkins, and shortbread cookies to keep us busy. I set up card tables in my garage and let the kiddos have at it! We made scary faces, cute faces, and there were a lot of happy faces all around.



About the guts:




Lorelei helped me collect as many pumpkin seeds as we could from the many, many pumpkins that were carved that day. We squished and swished the guts in water and did our best to collect the tasty seeds for roasting.




About toasting and roasting the seeds:

Part 1: I brined the pumpkin seeds in salt and sugar for two hours or so then toasted them in a 425º oven until they a deep golden color.

Part 2: In a 400º oven, I roasted the sugar pie pumpkins for a good long time, maybe an hour and a half. I knew they were done when the house smelled warm and gourdy, and when a knife slid easily into the flesh. I let them cool overnight and scooped the flesh away from the skin.


Voilà! Pumpkin puree.


About the bread:
(No picture, sorry. I know! What a let down, huh? You'll be OK. Just breathe.)
That pumpkin puree was staring me in the face for almost two weeks before I did anything with it. “What did you do with it?” you ask? You didn’t ask. DAMN! I thought I had it that time. Ah well.
Pumpkin bread!!!! I followed the Betty Crocker recipe, which is really their zucchini bread recipe that substitutes the pumpkin for the zucchini. It was good, but I’m going to make some changed that will make it awesome!

____________
If you wanted to play a drinking game with the blog post, knocking one back every time I used the word pumpkin, you probably wouldn’t be able to see your computer screen by now.

Hickup! You’re welcome.
____________
I feel better. I hope you do too.

Happy holidays everyone. I send my best and hope to not use the 'P' word for a very, very long time.

Santé
           


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pineapple Plops - My Thanksgiving Recipe Contribution

I can't remember a Thanksgiving dinner without Pineapple Plops. I know, I know. The word plop doesn't really sound appealing, but this is an easy to make, tasty, and all in all healthy recipe for the holiday table; and they are AWESOME!!!

When I asked my mom how this dish became a part of our traditional meal, she said, "I don't know. I saw a recipe for it once." I can only think that the recipe was on a can of pineapple rings forty years ago and that it has morphed and changed throughout the years. Here's my interpretation of one of my family's holiday favorites.


They're not the prettiest little things, but they sure are tasty.

Ingredients
(makes 8 servings)
1 20oz can Pineapple rings in juice (reserve the juice)
1 lb yams
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Brown sugar
Mini marshmallows





Preheat the oven to 350º. Peal and chop the yams into 1/2' cubes then boil them in salted water until tender. While they are boiling, lay out the pineapple rings in a baking dish. When the yams are done, drain them well and transfer to a large bowl. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and enough of the pineapple juice to make a creamy mixture when beaten. Drink the rest of the juice or give it to the kiddo that's waiting not-so-patiently at your ankles.

Now comes the Plop in your Pineapple Plops! Spoon the yam mixture evenly onto the rings (plop, plop... you get the picture). Then, with the back of a spoon, make a crater in the top of your plops... er yams. Sprinkle in some brown sugar (about 1/2 tsp) and three to five mini marshmallows. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the marshmallows are dark brown. Serve hot.

*Note: This is a dish that can be prepared up to the point of baking and be put in the oven as the bird is cooling and the table is being set.




Mom's Tip
This is a recipe that your kids can help with. They can plop, they can sprinkle, they can place the rings, and they'll love the end result.


Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Santé

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fit Friday - Week 2

I am not a star pupil.

I have not worked out once this week. I could tell you that I have and that I'm feeling great, but that would be a lie. I have had every intention to get up and take the time to exercise, but I haven't. The truth is, I am realizing that there is a lot more in my life that I need to change than just some dietary issues and fitting in thirty minutes of workout a few times a week.

One of the main things that is impeding my progress is this lack of sleep that I'm experiencing. It is really hard to drag my ass out of bed, make breakfast for Lorelei, make her lunch, get her dressed and do all of the same for myself when all I want to do is sit down at the kitchen table and cry into my lukewarm coffee.There are other things I could tell you, but they would all be excuses... mainly I AM TIRED.

So! What to do now? Well, there are a couple of things that I see doing right away.

1) Make Lorelei's lunch the night before.
B) Tell the child that she is grown enough to dress herself, lay out her clothes, and hope for the best.
And then) Stop my whining.


Oh yeah. And I'm that dork that doesn't read all of the materials before I start a project (sorry dad). So, I am fairly certain that I will be more motivated to dress my overweight derriere in workout clothes and get moving if I actually read the booklet that came with my workout videos and start cooking from the suggested recipes. I'm actually really looking forward to that!!

I expect, or at least I hope, that I am not the only person that has ever been excited to start a workout program and fell flat in the first weeks. But I am determined to pick myself up and make the best of the next nineteen weeks.

GULP! 
19 weeks to lose 35 pounds!!  
That's 1.842 pounds a week. 
(that's a lot)


Will someone please pass the celery.






Mom's Tip
I'm having to learn a very difficult lesson; How to give myself a break. I need to remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race.


Santé


Thank you again to Sara Dean at Fit Healthy Moms for your support!! I'll do better... I promise.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When it rains the snot pours

We plopped ourselves firmly in front of the TV today. Lorelei was sick with a fever and a yucky tummy. Poor kiddo. So, Kung Fu Panda, Dora the Expolrer, and SpongeBob have been Lorelei's entertainment for the morning and background noise for me while I'm focusing on my other work... this blog.
 No kidding, when it rains, it pours. I've got a lot going on these days. I'm happy for it, but it is keeping me busy. Luckily I've gotten some things done today. Here's what's going on:

1) You'll see that I now have a sponsor .
-----> -----> -----> 
See? Cool huh?

Thank you Fonté Café and Wine Bar for sponsoring my blog.  It's so cool!!

2) The date for the "Twitter Party" that I will be hosting for the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution has been announced: Tuesday, November 22, 2011, at 4 pm PDT. The topic is "From the Holiday Table to the Everyday Table": the conversation will focus on translating the traditions and meaning of the holidays to our everyday meals. The party is open to the public by searching #foodrevparty or following @foodmindedmama on Twitter. Join me and say hi!!

3) I'm attempting to keep up with my self imposed workout plan. A star pupil I am not but at least I'm working out a little bit more, right? Guh.


All that said, I love my slow cooker!! 

I got some cooking done today, which was nice. I had some roasted chicken bones in the fridge that needed to be cooked off so I set them up in the slow cooker early this morning with some water and let them roll for a few hours. Can you say amazing chicken stock and chicken soup for dinner? It was really good, and good for my little sickie here.

Lorelei helped me make some pumpkin bread today, too. We made use of some of the pumpkin puree that I got out of the Halloween pumpkins I roasted off a couple of weeks ago. We used the Betty Crocker pumpkin bread recipe which turned out fine, but I'll definitely be tweaking the recipe a bit. I'll share my version soon. (Mine would be so much better. Sorry Betty.)


Well, my girl is down for the count and I think I'm on the way out too. Here's hoping that she'll feel better in the morning. If not, we've got lots of chicken soup. 


Mom's Tip
Don't throw away your chicken bones!! If you don't expect to make chicken stock within a week or so, throw the suckers in the freezer, they'll last for another day.
Also!! Slow cooking the bones really got the flavor out of them. Ingredients: chicken bones (or any other kind of bones for that matter) and water to cover. Turn on cooker. Walk away. Skim the schmaltz (fat) and use as you would stock that you buy in a can or a box.


Santé


Friday, November 11, 2011

Fit Friday - Week 1

I bet you're expecting that after my announcement last week that I would have started like a shot out of the gate for my Fit by Forty Fitness Challenge. Well, that's not what happened. I did work out and I feel great! And because of my work outs I feel inspired to make better choices in my eating and I have achieved my goal of getting Lorelei involved; she loved doing my work out with me, so much so that I had a 40lb weight hanging from me and sitting on me during much of the 17 sweaty minutes.

Here's the deflating part of my story. Remember when I talked about having two valid reasons why I haven't been working out (at a gym at least)?

Money and Time

Well, I realized that there is a third:

Insomnia

I am afflicted with an overactive sense of worry that seems to rear it's head only when all is quiet in my house, say from 1:00am to 4:00am, sometimes 5:00. If I'm up all night, there is no way that I can stomach getting out of bed to exercise. Hell, I can barely get us out the door let alone work out, shower, and do the rest. As for working out in the afternoon... I'll get back to you. I have yet to see a time that I can do it.

Not to worry though!! I will not let lack of sleep get me down or keep me from accomplishing my goal. I started this challenge weighing in at (turn your head of you have any sense of decency) 185lbs. My goal is to be at 150lbs by April 3, 2012. It's an attainable goal and I know I can do it. But I also am willing to, and know that I will need to from time to time, give myself a break. I am one of those ding dongs that will push and push and push until I get sick, and I can't afford to do that.

So! Thank you Sara Dean of Fit Healthy Moms for your support and a great work out for my first week back in the moving world.


Mom's Tip
Whatever workout regimen you are taking on, think about how you can encourage your kids to get involved. They'll remember doing this with you when they are older and carry on a good tradition of being fit!


Santé

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I love this recipe for Greens

I don't know any kids that don't eat well. I think that's why it's strange for me to hear about children who will only eat white food, or that will pick out this or that from their dinners. As my daughter is getting older, she is developing some preferences and aversions, but she still tries new foods with enthusiasm.

One of the recent dishes she lapped up was an Italian Kale dish that our friend Klaire's daddy cooked for us last week. It was a gorgeous side to a simple meal that I am excited to recreate time and time again in my kitchen.

Ingredients:
1 bunch of Italian Kale (you can also use chard, collard greens, or even shredded Brussels sprouts)
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp cream
Fresh cracked pepper
(You don't need salt, the soy sauce provides that)

In a deep sautée pan or a stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sautée them for a couple of minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, then add the stemmed and corsely shredded kale (you and your kiddos can shred the greens with your hands). With some tongs, stir and rotate the greens in the oil so that they are evenly coated. Turn down the heat a bit and let the greens cook for three to five minutes, stirring frequently so that they don't burn. Add the chicken stock and let simmer for ten minutes or so. After the liquid has reduced a bit, add the soy sauce and cream and continue to cook for another few minutes. Crack some pepper over it at the end then serve it up with some steamed brown rice, a piece of fish or chicken, and crusty bread for dipping in the sauce and you have a very tasty dinner.


Mom's Tip
Even if your kids are old enough to feed themselves, it's totally OK to help them eat foods that may be difficult for little hands to maneuver. Kale is one of those foods. I look at helping Lorelei eat her dinner as a great way to spend time with her. We are able to talk, visit, even cuddle while we share a tasty meal.


As always, if you have any questions or comments, I welcome you to leave a comment below or contact me directly at foodmindedmama@gmail.com



Santé

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Holy Crap! I'm doing this.


I'm a single mom. There’s no co-parent. It’s just me and my girl. There are a lot of decisions that I've made for myself and my daughter that I feel are sound and that I'm proud of. There is one place, however, that I feel like I have been lacking; that would be in the arena of exercise. 

After my daughter was born, I nursed and did my best to eat well. I ate rich foods and drank wine in moderation and took good care of myself for the sake of my daughter. I got back down to my pre-pregnancy weight quite easily. As time went on though, the stresses of raising my babes alone began to take their toll. One glass of wine became two, I was "just too tired" to go for a walk, and I said to myself, "If I strap Lorelei in a stroller for my walk, when is she going to get her exercise? She’ll just be on her back and not sitting up or crawling.” I realize that that was a silly way to think, but those were the thoughts I leaned on to allow myself to accept lethargy as an acceptable state of being.

You know what?

Crap!

As I’m writing this post, trying to explain away why I’m so overweight and inactive, “Blah, blah, this reason. Blah, blah, this excuse.” I realize that none of my rationales make any damned bit of difference.

There are two valid reasons why it may be more difficult for me to work out and stay fit: the matters of time and money: I have no money to pay for a gym membership. This is a valid reason. I also don’t want to spend any more time away from my daughter than I already do, which is nearly forty hours a week (the majority of her waking hours). This is a valid reason too. But all of the “Wells” and “Buts” don’t matter.

I’m making excuses.

Craaaap.

All this being said: I don't exercise. Since Lorelei was born I have gained fifteen pounds. This weight is on top of the twenty pounds that I had gained from June of 2006 until May of 2008, when I found out I was pregnant.

Something’s got to change. But… why change now? Well, I’m five months away from my 40th birthday; that’s a good reason to bust my ass and lose thirty-five pounds. The other reason, however, is much more profound than vanity and health: it’s Lorelei.

Last week, when we were over at our friend Heidi’s house, her youngest daughter said something that has played over and over in my mind since,

“Oh no! I haven’t done my daily exercises yet! I’ll be right back.”

A four-year-old said that.

I realized then that I needed to start setting a good example for Lorelei and that I need to start a daily regimen of exercises so that she can learn that taking care of yourself is just as important as eating well.

And so, I am here to announce that I have taken on the challenge of losing thirty-five pounds in five months. Exactly five months from today, on April 3, 2012, I will be forty years old.

Craaaaaaaaap!

I will be following the 6 Week Pregnancy Weight Loss program developed by Sara Dean of FitHealthyMom.com. I have been told that, even though my weight can no longer be blamed on my baby, who is almost three years old (my words, not hers), this six week program will give me a good kick in the butt and be an efficient platform from which I can successfully launch my self-imposed weight loss challenge.

Of course I will be documenting this. Starting next week I will be reporting back to you, my readers, about my progress; most likely kvetching, wining, and complaining. I’ll share my successes and my failures, and, (gulp) I’ll be sharing my before, during, and after pictures. Oy vey. I’m told that this step is good motivation, but this part just sounds horrible to me. BUT! I’m doing it. Lucky you, right?

You may be wondering why on earth I would think that people who read this food/parenting blog would want to see this Mama on a weight loss challenge. Well, here’s what I’m thinking: it’s about setting a good example for my daughter. This blog is about teaching my kiddo how to be a good, healthy, informed, and well-rounded person. Learning about food is critical, but exercise is just as important and I’m the one who has to lead the way for her. I can no longer sit on the couch licking my salt-covered fingers telling her to do jumping jacks. I have to do them too. (That doesn’t really happen, but you catch my drift.)

All in all, my daughter needs me; not just to set a good example, but she needs for me to be there for her for a long time and I intend to be there, fit as a fiddle.

Please feel free to comment during this process. Tell me that I’m doing great, tell me that I’m screwing up, share your stories, whatever. Your support will really mean a lot to me and I’m sure your words will echo in my head while I’m faining pleasure in front of Lorelei while I’m doing sit ups.



Santé


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Home Made Tomato Sauce

If my chef friends saw how I ran my kitchen (hell, if my Step Mom saw) they would swallow their tongues. Typically there are dirty dishes in the sink, maybe a dirty egg pan from that morning’s breakfast on the stove while I’m cooking dinner, coffee grounds in the ‘coffee nook’, you name it. I always think I have ingredients that I don’t, and I often buy things that I already have, and (confession time) I throw out food (Sorry Grannie). 


 Anyhoo, I told Lorelei that we would watch a movie and have spaghetti dinner last night. We had had a long and very busy weekend with pumpkin carving, Halloween parties and Halloween, of course, so we needed a relaxing evening just the two of us. One major hiccough; I realized when we got home that I didn't have any pasta sauce. (Shit!)

Well, SHIT!!!

After rooting around in the cupboard looking for the damned jar of sauce that I just knew I had (which of course I didn’t) I realized that I did have some just-cooked tomatoes in the fridge.

Long story short about the tomatoes: a friend gave me these gorgeous tomatoes almost a month ago. They sat on my kitchen table lookin’ perty for a while, but then I realized that I had better do something with them or they would go to waste (See Annie, I do think about it…). I decided to blanch them and take the skins off with the intention of cooking them within a day or two. That was last week. Oy! So AGAIN, trying not to waste them, I put the skinless tomatoes in the slow cooker Monday morning and let them stew all day. When I got home, I put them in a jar and thought nothing of them… until now.

“HA!” I thought, “Well, here goes nothin’.”

So I set off to making homemade tomato sauce.

I'm sure that there are a million recipes out there for homemade tomato sauce, none of which I have ever looked at,  but I'm pretty stinkin' happy with how tonight's dinner turned out.


So here's what I did: (an ingredients list and simple instructions are below)

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, I heated some olive oil and threw in some leftover chopped shallot that I found in the fridge from Saturday’s pumpkin carving party. I scrounged up a garlic clove, smashed it, and threw it in the pot. Next, a squirt each of tomato paste and anchovy paste. I stirred all of that for about five minutes then added in my tomatoes. I tossed in five fingers full of salt and added some ground pepper, some basil and oregano from my herb pots, gave it a stir and then set the burner to medium-low.

Stir, stir, stir.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. 2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the caldron boil and bake… (I often quote Shakespeare when I cook.)

After about 20 minutes of simmering, I buzzed the sauce up with my immersion blender (my Braun Hand Blender that I bought from an infomercial years ago, Ha!) and it was ready! I tossed in some spaghetti and topped it with grated Parmesan. Easy!!

The review came in from Lorelei as this, “Mmm! Yum mom. Thank you.”

It was absolutely my pleasure.

Ingredients:
2 tbsp Olive oil in a saucepan
1 shallot chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1 tbsp anchovy paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups stewed tomatoes
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
Grated Parmesan for garnish.

Instructions:
Sautee the shallots, garlic, tomato paste and anchovy paste for a minute or so over med-high heat. Add stewed tomatoes, either those that you’ve made yourself or from a can, add salt and pepper, simmer for 20 minutes or so, blend (either with an immersion blender or a standard blender) and serve with spaghetti and lots of grated Parmesan.


Of course, if you have any questions or need some pointers, leave me a comment or contact me at foodmindedmama@gmail.com


Santé 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Silent Sunday - Watching a Pastaio at Work


I had such a great experience learning how to make gnocchi with Mike Easton of Il Corvo Pasta; not just because I learned how to make a dish that will become a part of my culinary repertoire, but because I had the opportunity to watch a craftsman at work.

After my gnocchi lesson was done, Mike let me hang out and watch him make the pasta for that day’s lunch service.

















Not to be sappy, but there were moments when I felt like I was watching a graceful man lead his lady around the dance floor; sliding back and forth on the flour-dusted floor, easing the two simple ingredients of flour and egg into delicate blond strands of pasta.

Very cool.


Santé

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Celebrating the Season - Pumpkins

Lorelei and I are very lucky to live where we do. In less than forty minutes we can be far away from the city mucking around in mud looking for the perfect pumpkin.




And now something you rarely see on this blog...


Me
 
This Saturday we'll be carving up our bounty, lapping up biscuits and gravy and munching on chocolate shortbread cookies.

Until then, I hope you're enjoying your October.


Santé

Monday, October 24, 2011

Coming up - A meeting with a Butcher

This recovered vegetarian is meeting with a butcher tomorrow to get (and share) some pointers on how to break down a chicken and ask some questions that I've had for a very long time. Here's hoping that it'll be informative for you as well as me.

In the interim, I know that I've got a lot of new people visiting this blog (Hi!), so I'd like to share with you a little about me; philosophies of a single foodie mom, if you will.

Please enjoy:




Santé

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blog of the Month on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution... Yahoooo!

I received the news Wednesday that this blog, my little blog, was selected by Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution as Blog of the Month.

Holy Cr... er, I mean, WOW!!!!! 

I am honored and grateful for the recognition. In light of that, I would like to repost a piece that I wrote in June.
________________________

A Call the Table

I've had a couple of conversations in the last week that have made me look closer at how I see American food culture and how we feed our children.  I've been told by a chef friend, whose opinion I respect especially when it comes to food, that my style of parenting in regard to the subject is an anomaly; that most parents would sooner stop at a drive through than cook a simple meal, or dole out fruit cups rather than hand their child an actual piece of fruit.  When I tell other friends about this, they agree with him.

I must admit.  I am BAFFLED.

When we were kids, didn't our parents tell us that we had to sit at the table to eat our dinner? Didn't we have to eat what was served us? Didn't we have to say please and thank you and use our napkins?

I suppose I take the tack from old-fashioned values in that I don't see myself as my child's friend. I am her parent, her guide, her confidant, her support.  It's my job to teach her how to be a good person, how to be a good citizen, and how to take care of herself in every regard.

So, where does our journey of teaching our children start?  What do children learn about first?

FOOD.

Food is the first thing kids have contact with from the time they're born. Their tastes and preferences are guided by what their parents give them. If you feed your baby the same thing every day, they'll be more likely to refuse something new. If you hand an infant something with a wrinkled nose and say, "Try this" they'll take a cue from you and turn away from it. But, if you introduce food to your child as if variety were rote, this will be their norm.

I very rarely feed my daughter the same thing twice. Truthfully this is more a function of the fact that I never really cook anything the same way twice (I'm scattered like that), but it's also because I don't want her to get stuck in a rut. For instance, I never give her the same after school snack two days in a row or give her the same kind of bread for her morning toast week after week.

This weekend was proof positive that what I'm teaching my daughter is taking effect. On our way out of town for a much-needed getaway, we stopped at the store for some essentials. In a rush to get to our little vacation destination, I went to the deli counter where I asked her what she wanted. There were pre-made sandwiches and wraps, but she pointed at the fruit and cheese cup.  (I though to myself, 'Yes! Good Girl!!') Later that night corn on the cob was served with dinner. I've always been indifferent to corn, so I've never cooked it at home, but Lorelei couldn't get enough. She's not afraid to try something new, and I love that!! And I can't help but think that this is due to my efforts in opening up the world of food to her.

Now, I'm not saying that I disagree with my chef friend's opinion. I can see where he's hit the mark. I've recently witnessed parents saying to other parents, "Well, he's young. He'll learn how to behave later." I've read entire blog posts by parents who refuse to take their toddlers to dinner at a restaurant for fear of how the child will behave.

Unbelievable.

The thing that really gets me, though, is that the HUGE push by our government, our First Lady (Michelle Obama), Jamie Oliver's Food Foundation, even major fast food chains to change the way we see food and feeding our kids has seemingly had no effect. How is this possible?! Are parents so selfish and lazy that they can't change their habits to make a good example for their children?

The sad answer is yes.

Case in point: I wait tables. It's a nice restaurant, but not so fancy that kids can't eat what we serve. I had a mother and father come in the other day asking if we had a children's menu. I said that we didn't but that "everything on our menu is edible, and my kid eats here all the time." Both statements are very true. The parents seemed amenable but the little girl, who couldn't have been more than eight and was already terribly overweight, decided that the family wouldn't be eating in my restaurant. And so they left.

The point of this blog post is not to preach. It's more to share my astonishment of people's willingness to fall prey to convenience and their unwillingness to fight The Good Fight. This path that I've chosen is not an easy one. I struggle like anyone with what I should cook for dinner, how the hell I'm going to find time to make that recipe which calls for ingredients that will cost me a fortune and that will spoil in my fridge because it's only sold in giant portions, and how on Earth am I going to use leftovers, so they don't taste like the last three meals we've had.

Maybe Jamie Oliver is right. Start with the kids because the parents are already lost. Teach our children how to eat better so that they can make a difference for their kids.

I'd like to take it one step further; let's learn from our forefathers. Let's look at our current food culture that's descended from the American food culture of the 1950's when frozen dinners and convenient packaging became the craze. Before that, we sat at the dinner table—not in front of the TV—every night, at the same time with our families; when food was cooked by fire and not by microwaves. When things were not easy, but simple.

Let's have a Call To Table.

Let's stop walking and driving while we eat and drink. Let's sit across from one another to share the stories of our days, and tell the stories of our past. Let's laugh, teach, and learn from and with one another

I may be an anomaly. And if I am, I'm happy for it. If you care to follow my lead, I have my pipe, and I'll play it loudly and dance while I'm doing it.

I wish you well in your journey and strongly encourage you to taste something new today.

________________________


Let me know what you think in the comments below. And thanks for reading!

Santé


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gnocchi - Part 2, Making it at Home With My Babes

After my last post you may be thinking,

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. So a Chef specializing in making pasta showed you how to make gnocchi. I didn't see your hands in there. You didn't make anything. What does that have to do with me cooking at home for myself, my kid(s), or my family and friends?!"

My dear readers, everything!

The point of this series is to show you that if I can cook it, you can too... and your monkeys can help!

(As a reminder, this is a follow up post to Part 1. The formula for the gnocchi dough and instructions on how to form and cook the gnocchi are all here. I am of course happy to answer any questions that you may have, chances are though that your question will be answered in the last post.)

I met with Mike of Il Corvo Pasta a couple of Thursdays ago for our interview and gnocchi tutorial. I had planned to try my hand at making gnocchi the following Saturday, but I got busy... then this and that happened... you know... forgetaboutit!!

Then, both Lorelei and I ended up having to stay home sick last Friday. I decided that this was a good time for us to make our gnocchi; a comforting and definitely entertaining dish to make. We turned off princess movies and SpongeBob for a while and cooked together.

There wasn't much to it, reallty; I followed the steps that Mike had laid out:
Boil the potatoes, skin-on.

Peel them while they are still hot.
Then pass them through a ricer/food mill and let them sit out at room temperature for two hours or so to let them cool down and dehydrate a bit.
I know, not nearly as fluffy and Mike's, but not bad, huh? Huh?
*Disclaimer: I work at a restaurant and I am very lucky to have supportive bosses who let me borrow equipment when I need it for a recipe. I don't own a ricer/food mill nor do I own a scale of any sort, which will be needed in the next steps. (Ok, I own a bathroom scale that lives in my kitchen near the sliding glass door just waiting to be chucked out into nature if it ever gives me the wrong answer. Frankly, after a week of eating pasta because of this post, its time is regrettably coming.)

Moving on.

I let the riced potatoes sit out for as long as I was patient, then I began to pass my fork back and forth through them hoping to High Hell that they would fluff up as nicely as Mike's had.

No go. 

There was no freaking way that those potatoes were going to be as 'delicately fluffy' as they were at Il Corvo that cloudy yet red-neon-light-drenched morning. (You just have to read my last post to get where I'm going with this imagery. Here, go now.) I'm not sure what I did differently, but I had faith in myself and in the fact that it was only three potatoes; if nothing else I could mash them and serve 'em up with a chicken.

So, seeing that the 'fluff factor' was going to elude me, I did what any semi-sick, impatient, half-way asleep-from-Nyquil in the daytime mom would have done: I put the damn things in the oven thinking to myself, actually bellowing out loud, 

"Dry damn you! Dry!!"

I'm fairly certain that those potatoes heard me, because after fifteen to twenty minutes in a 200º oven (and with careful tending) they came out great!!

The next steps were easy. I placed the potatoes in a large bowl, "zeroed" out the scale, weighed them, added 1 egg per 300 grams of potatoes, then added one half of the total weight of the potato/egg mixture of flour and carried on (as seen in the last post. Wanna go there again? It's like magic!! Here)

The best part about making these gnocchi at home was kneading the dough, rolling it out into long snakes, and cutting them into bite-sized pieces with Lorelei.
My little girl really wanted to help. She pulled up a chair, grabbed the apron that her Grannie made for her, got her hands in the dough, rolled out the snakes like a pro, and cut them into pieces with her own tool.

"No mom. No, no. Like this." she said, all the while pushing my hands out of the way to get to her work. Chop, chop, chop.

She LOVED helping make this dinner; which meant that she would really enjoy eating it too. (By the way, I gave her a wooden bench scraper as her cutting tool. Plastic bench scrapers are available for a couple of bucks in kitchen supply stores and work just as well.)
 
Note: One thing that I really want to stress about this last step, the cutting of the snakes into the final pieces of gnocchi step, is that you really need to have plenty of flour on hand to dust the freshly-cut pieces so that they don't stick together. You can't use too much flour at this point. The gnocchi won't get too dry or gummy; they'll get gummy of you don't use the flour.

When the dough was all cut and ready, I boiled up the little pillows and tossed them in a simple sauce: here I sauteed some chanterelle  mushrooms with some shallots, chicken stock, salt and pepper and butter to finish.

Truth be told, at this point it wasn't about the sauce; it could have been just olive oil and herbs. What really mattered was that Lorelei and I had spent some creative, productive, and cuddle-filled time together. The bonus was the gnocchi.

Thanks again, Mike, for the lesson on how to make a yummy dinner that is certain to please many for a long time and for the foresight of knowing that making gnocchi is at least a two-person job.

Mom's Tip
You may notice in the pictures of Lorelei working that the fruit was covered with plastic. Yes, I am an awesome mom and had the foresight to cover things knowing that flour and dough would fly. And it did. I did not, however, think about the floor. I would recommend a drop cloth. 'Nuf said on that topic, huh? 


Santé

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gnocchi - Part 1: Lessons from a Pastaio




Pastaio - Pasta Maker


My big mouth has been working for me lately; a refreshing change from the norm, I must say. Remember how I mentioned Mike Easton in my Braised Short Ribs post? The guy who owns Il Corvo Pasta in Seattle? The guy who told me how I should have made that thick, amazing sauce? Well, he came into my restaurant again last week. After a little bit of chitchat my big mouth blurted out,

“Will you show me how to make pasta and maybe do an interview for my blog?”

He said, "Sure! But instead of pasta, let's do gnocchi. How about Thursday morning?"

It’s either dumb luck or I’m truly following my heart these days because at that moment I knew that this was going to be the beginning of a series of tutorials and interviews that I will be doing with chefs, craftsmen, and artisans in order to learn how I can recreate some of my favorite things at home… and for Lorelei.

Bright and early last Thursday morning I found myself in the quaint little shop that Mike shares with a gelateria just below the Pike Place Market. As I walked in, the red neon Procopio sign mounted on a wall-to-wall mirror behind the counter cast a warm glow on the place; a welcome contrast to the gray Seattle morning. With a quick, “Hello. Good morning” Mike rolled right into telling me about the first steps of the gnocchi making process.

The main theme of the lesson was about moisture; how to keep it in and out of the potatoes while cooking them, and how best to allow as much moisture to escape the potatoes after cooking in order to make a light, fluffy gnocchi.

First: boil the potatoes (preferable Yukon Golds) in salted water until they are tender to the core when tested with a knife. Then, as soon as you can, peel the spuds of their skin and pass them through a food mill or ricer.

Let the milled potatoes fall onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet in as much of an even layer as possible for uniform cooling. Then, allow to sit out uncovered for around two hours to let it come to room temperature and dry out a bit.

If you don’t have the time, as Mike doesn’t in the shop, place the uncovered tray in the fridge overnight. The next morning place the tray in your gas oven with the pilot light on for about an hour or until it's just warm to the touch. If you’re unlucky like I am and don’t have a gas range (and are as impatient as I am), carefully and with great attention, put the tray in your electric oven at 200º for fifteen to twenty-five minutes or as long as it takes for the potatoes to feel like supple little petals in your hand. That sounds flowery, I know, but it's true. The potatoes that Mike made felt like lavender petals when they had finished the drying process; delicate, fragile, and fluffy.

Then, after a little while of cooling and tending, the fun begins.

There’s a no-fail formula to making the gnocchi dough. Really. There is. It’s not about how many potatoes, or how many eggs, or how much flour to use, it’s about the weight of the ingredients.

-        For every 300 grams of boiled, riced, and ‘dried’ potatoes (yes! grams)
-        There is one egg (or there about)
-        Then, flour. Equal to 1/2 of the total weight of the potato/egg mixture.


 
No foolin’. That’s it.

One important note: Use WARM eggs. Room temperature is good, but Mike does something pretty cool; he places eggs from the fridge into a bowl of boiling water and lets them stand for five minutes or so. Using warm eggs will keep the potato/egg/flour mixture from being too stiff and will make the dough easier to work with.

Once you have the three ingredients in a bowl, get your hands in there and start mixing. It’s going to be sticky, but it’s the best kind of sticky.

Then, when everything is well incorporated, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface.

Then, as you would bread dough, kneed it for a few minutes to develop the glutens in the mixture. Mike explained that this process is pretty crucial because this will allow the gnocchi to puff up to be tender little pillows, and not doughy gut bombs. (Technically speaking, the expanding liquids are trapped by the gluten proteins thereby making the dumplings puff up nice ‘n perty like.)

When the dough has come together and is a bit elastic, it’s time to start rolling! It’s like preschool, or art class all over again. I love it!! Cut off a small-ish piece of the dough and, on a floured surface, start rolling it out like it’s Play Dough. Of course, Mike made it look easy, deftly rolling out piece after piece, dusting each one with a pinch of flour so they wouldn’t stick to the board or to each other.

Then, when there were three or four snakes of dough rolled out, he would line them up and, with the precision of a chef (wait, he is a chef… anyway), he took his bench scraper and chopped them into even pieces.

Just after cutting, he dusted the newly formed pillows of dough with flour so that the exposed bits wouldn’t stick together. He repeated these steps until the entire loaf of dough was rolled, chopped, dusted, and ready to be cooked.

At this point, of you were to be making a small batch, or wanted to either be fancy or make your mark on your creation, you could, well, make some marks in the gnocchi; either by means of a gnocchi board, or on a fork.

Then, all that’s left is to boil ‘em up and serve ‘em up. Enjoy!

WAIT!!!!

About the boiling…

It is very important to have your water well salted, “like the sea.” Mike was sure to point out that the ocean is 3% salt, and that the boiling water for gnocchi (any pasta really) should be at least 2% salt. Remember that there was NO SALT in the dough mixture, so this is the only time that the gnocchi will be seasoned. (Don’t worry about percentages at this point, just salt the hell out of the water.)

Another thing about boiling gnocchi is that it takes way more time than what you might think. The common thought, as was mine until last week, is that gnocchi are done cooking when they float to the top of the water. No! No! Once they hit the top let ’em cook for a good long time; Mike says around four minutes, but we stood in his kitchen for I don’t know how long shootin’ the shit before he popped a piping hot pillow into his mouth and said, “Now.”
No kidding, they really puff up! They are deflated a bit in the picture, but oh boy! I've never had gnocchi like this. It was a new experience for me. In three simple letters, GUH!

You can toss the freshly cooked gnocchi into a sauce (simple is best, don't over do it), or you can generously coat the strained gnocchi with olive oil and keep them in the fridge until you're ready to serve them (this is of course what is done in the restaurant as the gnocchi are served as freshly boiled as possible)*.

I wasn’t at Il Corvo for service that day, but there’s a great shot of the gnocchi that we made that day on Mike’s site.
Mike and his assistant Johannes Heitzerberg preparing fresh pasta for service. Sometimes with music blaring, other times in silence. Either way, it's really freakin' cool... I'm such a food dork.

When I asked Mike about where and how he learned to make pasta, he said this,

“I didn’t go to Italy to learn how to cook. 
I knew how to cook before I got there. 
I went there to learn an craft.”

And that he did. What a wonderful experience I had. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to watch this craftsman at work. Mike’s pasta is available Monday through Friday 11:00 – 2:00. You can follow Il Corvo and learn about their daily specials and other fun stuff on Twitter (@ilcorvopasta), on Facebook (Il Corvo Pasta) or on Mike’s blog http://ilcorvopasta.com.

Stay tuned for Part two of the gnocchi story: Making Gnocchi at home With The Babes.

*Gnoccchi that are par-boiled and tossed with olive oil

Santé

UPDATE: Want to read part two? Here you go! Gnocchi - Part 2, Making it at Home With My Babes